Chaos in Gros Islet….
England are playing Australia in an exciting ODI series, India hosted Afghanistan in a historic Test match and the FIFA World Cup is in full swing in Russia. The West Indies – Sri Lanka Test series was a mere sidekick to all the excitement in the world of sports in June. As though to bring the limelight to the Caribbean Islands, a ball-tampering row and subsequent protests erupted out of nowhere.
Sri Lanka were charged for altering the condition of the ball resulting in a five-run penalty and a ball change. In vehement protest, Sri Lankan players refused to take the field on day three resulting in utter chaos at St Lucia.
“The ICC can confirm the match officials in the second Test between West Indies and Sri Lanka changed the ball and awarded 5 penalty runs to West Indies,” the ICC had tweeted. “If there are any, Code of Conduct charges will follow as per usual at the close of play.”
The ICC laws clearly state that the ball can be replaced if the umpires feel the fielding side has tinkered with it. The opposition captain is also privy to the discussion.
Law 41.3.4 If the umpires consider that the condition of the ball has been unfairly changed by a member or members of either side, they shall ask the captain of the opposing side if he/she would like the ball to be replaced. If necessary, in the case of the batting side, the batsmen at the wicket may deputise for their captain.
However, Sri Lankan players clearly believed they did absolutely nothing wrong on day 2 although it seemed like the officials had enough conclusive evidence to suggest that the ball had been tampered with. Although the proceedings had happened on day 2 and the umpires had checked the ball multiple times, it wasn’t until 10 minutes before the start of play on day 3 that the news of penalty runs was conveyed to the Lankans.
On day 3, the umpires and Windies batsmen came out to the middle only to see that none of the Sri Lankan players were joining them. Visuals from the Lankan dressing room showed new head coach Chandika Hathurusingha, Dinesh Chandimal, Asanka Gurusinha, the team manager in an animated conversation with match referee, Javagal Srinath.
The players did eventually come out after a lot of convincing only to leave the ground again and stand at the boundary ropes in further discussion and debates. The animated protests saw two valuable hours being hogged with the skipper, Dinesh Chandimal, spotted conversing on a phone from the boundary, god forbid! Communication devices aren’t allowed during cricket matches and the Lankan side, busy in protest, seemed intent on breaking more than a few rules.
The discussion could have been with Sri Lankan Cricket (SLC) back home but the protest could also have been carried out in the background without the players refusing to step out, if they did believe they were wronged by the umpires.
“The team management has informed us that Sri Lankan players have not engaged in any wrongdoing,” a SLC release said. “SLC shall take all necessary steps to defend any player, in the event any unwarranted allegation is brought against a member of the team.”
The support and the belief that they were being unfairly treated by the officials continued as Chandimal was charged by ICC for apparently “taking sweets out from his left pocket and putting these in his mouth, before applying the artificial substance to the ball which the umpires viewed as an attempt to change its condition” and the skipper pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
The charge placed on Chandimal is a breach under Article 2.2.9 of ICC’s code of conduct, dealing with manipulating the condition of the ball by “unfair” means. The SLC have understandably appealed against the charge given that their initial stance was that they did no wrong. But if the officials do produce sufficient evidence in the form of footage, everything from the protest, the heated arguments, the refusal to come out to play, the use of phone from the sidelines, the antics from the board in the form of blind support for its players et al could come under heavy scrutiny. And, hearings against a call from the officials rarely go in the way of the team/player protesting.
Whatever raised the tempers in the Lankan dressing room, the manner in which they held play hostage for two hours deserves nothing but ridicule. If they did feel they were wronged, the protests could have happened after the day’s play although to be fair, the officials were also guilty of not conveying details early enough.
All said and done, Chandimal pleading “not guilty” makes for an interesting hearing. However, if he does not come unscathed from this, Cricket Australia’s ban of Steven Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner have set a precedent and SLC would be taunted to at least consider similar options. St Lucia is alive again and there just seems to be no end to shenanigans surrounding ball tampering in International cricket.